Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Black-eyed Susan

Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta
As winter slowly comes to an end, early signs of spring are starting to show with the beginning blossoms of multiple wildflowers. Native to North America, Black-eyed Susans are a common sight along various road sides, in many fields, and other areas that have been disturbed. These flowers are often confused with coneflowers and Mexican Hats due to coloration, but the best way to differentiate is by the petals. For the Black-eyed Susan, the yellow petals do not clasp the steam.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren, Thryothorus ludovicianus
For such a small bird, the Carolina Wren sings an incredibly loud song. The song, best described as tea-kettle tea-kettle, can be heard almost constantly throughout the day from the male of this species. They love dense shrubs and vegetation, and are therefore more often heard than seen. These birds are a caramel color, with a strip resting right above the eye. They have a nice thin, long beak for catching insects and the occasional small vertebrate. While it is only the male that sings, this species has been observed to be monogamous.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Adirondacks Mountains

Autumn in the Adirondacks
Approximately six million acres, the Adirondacks Mountains region of New York is a combination of forests, lakes, rivers, and mountains. The region is an unconnected range formed by the movement of glaciers over millennia. The rocks are old, but the domes are considered new ranging between 1,000ft and 5,000ft at peak. The southernmost part of the taiga, also referred to as boreal forest, is found within the range. As an established park as of 1892, it is one of the largest areas of wilderness protected in the eastern United States. The area offers a large range of recreational activities from camping, to fishing, to skiing, and hiking among other options.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bush Tucker

Mangrove Mollusks 
Bush Tucker, or Bush Food refers to the native flora and fauna of Australia that was the main diet for Aboriginals before colonization. As I've mentioned before, this refers to absolutely anything edible resulting with some surprising flavors. By the coast, fish such as the Barramundi and shellfish such as the Morton Bay Bug are common. In terms of recognizable, both crocodile and kangaroo often grace the plate. Like most native cultures, the Aboriginal people knew the plants, the animals, and the cycles of the area and use that to their advantage.

Monday, February 20, 2012

House Finch

House Finch, Carpodacus mexicanus
A species that is now found in the majority of North America year round, this songbird like many others has a distinct colorful male and a drab female. The red color of the male, similar to a flamingo, is actually due to pigmentation in the foods they eat. They had originally only been found in the western states, but for a number of decades a population has grown in the eastern states. This is apparently due to setting many free in New York due to a failed attempt to sell them as pets. These birds are often found in neighborhoods, singing a distinct song not unlike that of the Painted Bunting; however, at least for North Texas, one way to separate by sound is knowing the time of year and the location as the Painted Buntings are summer migrants and prefer the open fields to suburban neighborhoods.

One reason I love this particular photo is that it was taken during one of the very infrequent snow storms of North Texas.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hagerman Wildlife Refuge: Part 2

Prairies of Hagerman Wildlife Refuge
Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1946, is located on the Big Mineral Arm of Lake Texoma consisting of about 12,000 acres incorporating prairie, woodland, marshes, ponds, and cultivated fields. The refuge is centered on a transition zone of Blackland Prairie to Eastern Cross Timbers.  Most notable is the winter home and migratory resting the refuge actively provides for thousands of waterfowl as the location is within the Central Flyway. The water levels are regulated by the construction of low earthen dikes to create a marshy wetland habitat during fall and winter, but drained in spring and summer to encourage growth of wild sedge, smartweeds, and millet. As a flood reservoir of Lake Texoma, there can be very notable variation during heavy rains or long droughts. Chiggers, ticks, venomous snakes, and feral hogs are what visitors should be cautious about. The refuge allows year-round hiking and fishing, seasonal boating, a 4-mile auto tour, and limited hunting which will soon include hogs. Pump jacks for oil and natural gas production are also located on various jetties around the refuge as mineral rights had not been purchased during the establishment of the refuge and remain under private ownership.

Information gathered from the main website, observations, and America's National Wildlife Refuges: A complete guide by Russell D. Butcher.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Torresian Crow

Torresian Crow, Corvus orru
The Torresian Crow is one of six members of the Corvidae family found in Australia. Often confused with the Australian Raven, the only way to distinguish by distance is the call. The crow has a harsh, nasal staccato call while the raven has a slow, high drawn out "ah" call. If ever up close, the base feathers of the crow are white while the raven is grey. While both occupy all variety of habitats, the Torresian Crow is more common in tropical and coastal areas.

This particular photograph was taken in Caloundra, Australia which is certainly a coastal town.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Cicada, Cicadoidea
Cicadas are found in all parts of the world, but with an estimated species count of over two thousand, many of them remain unclassified and unstudied. In particular, some areas such as South America have little to no data on the species found there due to an apparent lack of taxonomist. These insects are best known for their summer song and discarded shells. The reason they are one of the only sounds heard during the heat of the day is they have the ability to sweat, which is a highly uncommon adaption for any in the class Insecta. The cicada is commonly known for their grip as their discarded shells are often found still clinging to branches, bricks, and wood. In a moist, humid place such as the Atlantic Rainforest, a cicada that dies gripping a branch will quickly fall back into the cycle of life as fungus starts the decomposition process.

 This was a lucky find in Brasil, located in the Atlantic Rainforest near Parque Estadual Turístico Alta Ribeira, more commonly known as PETAR.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Two-Spotted Ladybug

Two-spotted Ladybug, Adalia bipunctata
The cheap student housing in New Zealand offers little to no insulation or heating element which means plenty of stove use when possible and water bottles at night for warmth. In a city that seems almost constantly damp and cold, some insects such as the two-spotted ladybug welcome the relief gained from invading houses. For summer, finding a way into a warm building is not an issue, but during winter hibernation the warmth can interfere with the metabolism by speeding it up and causing death. This particular species is common in many places of the world including North America, Asia, and Europe.

Lucky for this ladybug, it was just a cold summer day in Wellington, New Zealand.
And here's hoping my own computer is back and running by tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hagerman Wildlife Refuge

Little Mineral Creek
Since I've been having some computer issues as of late, here is a simple photo of the one of the creeks at Hagerman Wildlife Refuge. Soon I will delve more into the wonders of the refuge.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Brazilian Wolf Spider

Brazilian Wolf Spider, Lycosa raptoria?
A member of the family Lycosidae, the wolf spider can be found on all continents of the world (with the exception of Antarctica). The eye pattern is the easiest way to distinguish this family of spiders as both body pattern and size can vary per species. At glance they are often confused with the brown recluse, a spider known for the necrotic venom delivered in a bite. It is important to keep in mind that a brown recluse prefers a dark, secretive corner whereas the wolf spider will frequently appear in the open and near light. As an active hunter, it is not unusually to come across a wolf spider especially during cold months in a warm home. While the venom is not strong enough to cause problems in humans, the bite itself can carry infectious bacteria as with any spider bite.

This particular spider, photographed in Cananéia, could possibly be the species Lycosa raptoria although there is limited information so the identification is not certain.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Storm Formation

The beginnings of a supercell storm
Just to do something different today, and partially influenced by the current weather, I found this storm photo in some older photography. This is a picture of what was soon to become a supercell, a thunderstorm that has a mesocyclone present. These are not uncommon within the Great Plains as the atmosphere is often unstable. The instability is due to moist air from the Gulf of Mexico meeting the dry air of the western deserts and Rocky Mountains. A supercell does not guarantee tornado formation, but if a tornado does form it is often more violent and more stable meaning longer time in contact with the ground. The key terms to listen for on a weather report are "hook echo" and "wall cloud" which can accompany a supercell and are indications of a high possibility of  tornado formation.

This particular photograph was taken in a town by the Red River, an area known for tornados (frequent, but weak). If I remember right, a wall cloud did form a few miles later but no tornado. I did take this from a window on the fourth floor which accounts for the few spotty blurs.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Snow Goose

Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
During the winter, Snow Geese flock together and migrate south, stopping in areas such as Hagerman Wildlife Refuge. There they find wonderful green fields of grains and grasses that are specifically tailored for these and other migrating geese near the flood plains. The Snow Goose has two color morphs: snow white and blue. They had once been separated into two different species which is why the Snow Goose is sometimes still referred to as the Blue Goose.